Translucent customized cranial implants made of clear polymethylmethacrylate: An early outcome analysis of 55 consecutive cranioplasty cases

Tamir Shay, Kerry Ann Mitchell, Micah Belzberg, Ian Zelko, Smruti Mahapatra, Jason Qian, Luis Mendoza, Judy Huang, Henry Brem, Chad Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Large skull reconstruction, with the use of customized cranial implants, restores cerebral protection, physiologic homeostasis, and one's preoperative appearance. Cranial implants may be composed of either bone or a myriad of alloplastic biomaterials. Recently, patient-specific cranial implants have been fabricated using clear polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), a visually transparent and sonolucent variant of standard opaque PMMA. Given the newenhanced diagnostic and therapeutic applications of clear PMMA, we present here a study evaluating all outcomes and complications in a consecutive patient series. Methods: A single-surgeon, retrospective, 3-year study was conducted on all consecutive patients undergoing large cranioplasty with clear PMMA implants (2016-2019). Patients who received clear PMMA implants with embedded neurotechnologies were excluded due to confounding variables. All outcomes were analyzed in detail and compared with previous studies utilizing similar alloplastic implant materials. Results: Fifty-five patients underwent cranioplasty with customized clear PMMA implants. Twenty-one (38%) were performed using a single-stage cranioplasty method (ie, craniectomy and cranioplasty performed during the same operation utilizing a prefabricated, oversized design and labor-intense, manualmodification), whereas the remaining 34 (62%) underwent a standard, 2-stage reconstruction (craniectomy with a delayed surgery for cranioplasty andminimalto- no implant modification necessary). The mean cranial defect size was 101.8 cm2. The mean follow-up time was 9 months (range, 1.5-39). Major complications requiring additional surgery occurred in 7 patients (13%) consisting of 2 (4%) cerebrospinal fluid leaks, 2 (4%) epidural hematomas, and 3 (4%) infections. In addition, 3 patients developed self-limiting or nonoperative complications including 2 (4%) with new onset seizures and 1 (2%) with delayed scalp healing. Conclusions: This is the first reported consecutive case series of cranioplasty reconstruction using customized clear PMMA implants, demonstrating excellent results with regard to ease of use, safety, and complication rates well below published rates when compared with other alloplastic materials. Clear PMMA also provides additional benefits, such as visual transparency and sonolucency, which is material specific and unavailable with autologous bone. Although these early results are promising, further studies with multicenter investigations are well justified to evaluate long-term outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e27-e36
JournalAnnals of plastic surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Alloplastic
  • Clear
  • Cranial
  • Cranioplasty
  • Implant
  • Methylmethacrylate
  • PMMA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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